Friday, November 11, 2011
To say that the author Laurel Saville had a tumultuous relationship with her mother, Anne, is to say that the Crusades were unpleasant. Laurel begins her mother’s story by telling of Anne was found murdered in possibly sexually assaulted in an abandoned building in West Hollywood. Upon hearing this news, Laurel decides to shelf the matter as dealing with her and her mother’s past will only hurt Laurel. When Laurel’s father becomes ill, she finally decides that it is time to come to terms with her mother’s death and her life. Laurel decides to research her mother’s murder and in doing so pulls the curtain back on her own damaged childhood. She writes about the long line of destructive and abusive men that tramped through her mother’s life; the fluctuating emotions that her mother had when drinking (and she was always drinking); and her inevitable decision to move to the other side of the country in hopes of releasing herself from her mother’s grasp. Anne’s erratic behavior, narcissistic nature, and inability to raise her children led to fractured family in which Anne was always the child and expected to be taken care of by either her grandparents or children.
While it is difficult to read such a story, it is even more arduous to have any kind of compassion of sympathy for Anne. Yet, Laurel is not the kind to be victimized or vilify her mother. Instead, she presents the facts and makes sure that the reader understands that they are presented from her point of view. Additionally, she presents the memoir in an anti-chronology. Instead of starting with her birth or her mother’s upraising, she begins with her mother’s death. She then jumps around in time between her childhood, her adulthood, Anne’s childhood, and Laurel’s adolescence. For some readers, this may be distracting and difficult to understand. However, I thought that is matched the memoir perfectly. She presents her stories as memories which are no sequential. It might make it harder for the reader, but it’s more true to life and memory.
While I was pretty entranced by the memoir, I cannot fully endorse it. The reason being that I don’t know how many people will really enjoy. As I previously stated, I could relate to the story and therefore found it merits. For those who have not had a fractured family such as Laurel’s, you may find the memoir self-indulgent or even tedious. Additionally, this is not a memoir specifically about Anne so if you are looking for a story about the dark side of Hollywood as seen through the eyes of a 1960s model...this is not the book for you. This is just as much Laurel’s memoir as it is her mother’s. Personally, I think that the book could benefit from some photographs. Many of the descriptions of Anne focus on her great beauty and eventual disintegration, similar to Dorian Gray. Unfortunately, there aren’t any photographs to back this up. I was able to find some online, but it’s a bit of a hassle when they easily could have been printed in the book. Lastly, while the writing was beautiful and I found the story to have worth, it seemed more like a personal project that had somehow been published. I am sure it was a catharsis for Laurel but I don’t know how well it will play out with larger audiences. I do believe it has a future, I am just unsure what or where that is.